Thu, Feb 03, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Envoys avoid Koo's memorial service

TELEMOURNERS China's ARATS envoys declined to attend the service for Taiwan's cross-strait negotiator, while the president invited their aging boss to visit sometime


Credited with facilitating dialogue with China despite the cross-strait impasse, top negotiator Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) managed in death to bring the two sides together again publically, if only with a brief handshake after his memorial service had ended.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) did not meet the Chinese delegation yesterday, though he did invite their superior to visit Taiwan. The envoys waited until the memorial service had concluded before arriving to offer their condolences to the Koo family in private.

Acting Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman and Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Vice Chairman Johnnason Liu (劉德勳) and SEF Deputy Secretary-General Jan Jyh-horng (詹志宏) shook hands with Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) vice chairman and deputy director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office Sun Yafu (孫亞夫) and ARATS secretary-general Li Yafei (李亞飛) as they were ushered past reporters into the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall through a side door.

"These few years, I've felt more and more acutely that the development of cross-strait ties, the maintenance of peace across the Taiwan Strait depends on effort from both sides," Sun later told the press before departing for Beijing yesterday afternoon.

"We watched the memorial service on television, and we remembered Koo's life together with the people of Taiwan. We felt the respect the public had for Koo and his contributions to cross-strait affairs," he said.

Li added that ARATS and the SEF should resume their relationship on the basis of the "1992 consensus" soon. The so-called "1992 consensus" remains a point of considerable disagreement between Taiwan and China.

The memorial service seemed particularly somber given the light drizzle, cold weather and the droves of mourners dressed in black, but Chen did aim for a conciliatory tone.

During his address, Chen formally invited Koo's Chinese counterpart, ARATS chairman Wang Daohan (汪道涵), to visit Taiwan.

"If we can shelve our differences and work to achieve consensus, to actively seek reconciliation, dialogue and negotiations and to increase mutual trust, then we will be able to increase agreements and lessen disagreements," Chen said.

Koo was chairman of the semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) before he died last month from kidney cancer. Koo and Wang held the landmark "Koo-Wang Talks" in 1993 and later in 1998.

Unable to attend the memorial in person, Wang sent Sun and Li as his personal envoys.

Pressed by reporters, MAC Vice Chairman and spokesman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) did not deny that Sun and Li had met with SEF representatives before the service in addition to their brief exchange after the service.

The last time SEF and ARATS officials made contact was six years ago, when a meeting was convened to discuss plans for Wang to visit Taiwan, a visit that has yet to take place.

Chiu said Liu had relayed the invitation for Wang to Sun and Li. He said that both sides had expressed goodwill and that he felt Sun and Li had found their trip to be satisfactory. He also said Liu told the delegation that if Wang, 90, wanted to visit Taiwan, then the government would be willing to arrange for a private jet and medical personnel to assist him.

In response to Chen's invitation, Sun told reporters he would "relay everything I have seen, heard, and felt in Taiwan to Wang" when he returned to China.

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